That was just the Vikings being the Vikings

Since it was such an epic game, and since I’m a Viking fan who was in attendance, I feel the need to write up a quick review of the game, and some of my thoughts.

First of all, I was wrong about the keys to the game, and I was wrong about my premise that the Vikings had only a prayer (although I’m sure my tortured past as a Viking fan contributed to my pessimism). People like to take shots at the “experts” when their analysis is wrong, but as long as the analysis is viable and reasonable, what else is there to go by? People who have “gut feelings” are usually misguided. One can only call the game as one see it based on personnel, scheme, and other mitigating factors. But in the end it’s still football, and in this case championship football. For example, it would have been far more of a stretch to say the shaky Viking secondary was going to limit the high-flying Saint passing game, as they did, than to say what I said (the opposite). The Minnesota secondary and overall defense did just that, but that really couldn’t have been predicted based on the information available before the opening kickoff. Sometimes, in a huge game, an offense can be compressed and play a little tight, and that would describe the Saints on Sunday. I do give major credit to the Viking defense because they played a hell of a game. Might the game be different if they had LB E.J. Henderson? I’m not sure because they really played well without him. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is great, which probably means he’ll be gone (hired by Buffalo, perhaps), like most good Viking coordinators wind up being (like two Super Bowl winning coaches Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin).

Minnesota gave the Saints all they could handle, but in true Viking fashion, it wasn’t enough. This team continues to find new ways to lose big games in devastating fashion. Leave it to the Vikings to have one of the NFL’s best defenses, have one of the most talented RBs to ever play score 3 TDs in the game, and to somehow land one of the league’s greatest players of all time to quarterback them – and watch him have arguably his best season – and it’s still not enough. Leave it to the Vikings to out-play a very good team in their own stadium and keep one of the best QBs of our time to fewer than 200 yards passing, but to shoot themselves in the foot. Leave it to the Vikings to likely win a road title game with 4 turnovers, but to have 5 of them. And based on some questionable calls on the final drive of the game, leave it to the Vikings to also get screwed themselves. Heck, leave it to the Vikings to lose the coin toss in a situation in which it was obvious that the first team with the ball in OT was going to win.

I took this shot seconds after the game-winning FG from my seat the Super Dome Sunday night. The kick was on my side of the endzone

I took this shot seconds after the game-winning FG from my seat at the Super Dome Sunday night. The kick was on my side of the endzone

I mentioned last week that my fandom has been reduced probably 70% based on my occupation, but I must admit the pain of my childhood rooting for this team, the ’87 championship game, the ’98 title game, and the ’00 title game, coupled with this loss has been tough to swallow. It’s especially tough for me because I already had plans to take my wife to the Super Bowl this year. I’m going to the game one week from Sunday, that’s been locked in for weeks for me. As I was watching the Vikes drive down the field for the potential game-winning FG or TD, I kept thinking to myself “Are the Vikings really going to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1977, and am I really going to be at the game?”

Sadly, even when they were in Ryan Longwell’s range with less than a minute to go in the contest, I kept telling myself “you know, probably not.” Over the course of the second half, I kept telling the very concerned Saint fans around me not to worry because the Vikings wouldn’t win this game. For one, because they are the Vikings, but most importantly because no team deserves to win a title game when it turns the ball over 5 times, and when it fumbles 6 times, ESPECIALLY the Vikings. Even though the Vikings played better on both sides of the ball, the Saints deserved to win, and the Vikings deserved to lose.

I am happy for the Saint fans. I love the city, and I’ve always liked the team. As I partied with their fans on Bourbon Street Saturday night, I discussed with many of them how we feel each other’s pain, but if any city and team deserved to win on just pain alone, I’d say New Orleans and the Saints did. And obviously, there are more important things in life than a football game.

And as disappointed as I was in the outcome, being at the game was special. I watched the game on TV when I returned home yesterday and the sounds and pictures paled in comparison to the real thing. For one, the crowd noise doesn’t come close to coming across on TV. I was amazed Minnesota could even complete one pass given the noise, not to mention 28 of them. The drama was surreal, and the pure joy felt by Saint fans was palpable. Watching the game on TV yesterday, it was a snooze-fest compared to being there.

It was also worth it just to see Brett Favre play live, something I’ve never had the pleasure of doing before Sunday. I’ve always recognized him, obviously, but I’ve never been one to praise him glowingly, due in large part to the factors his critics always point out. I know he annoys the hell out of some people, and that last pick was terrible. But Brett Favre deserves all the accolades. For one, he’s the toughest player to ever play NFL football. Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkas, Chuck Bednarik – whoever. Favre’s tougher. In the history of mankind, there will never be another player like him at his position. His consecutive games played streak will never be broken by anyone other than maybe a kicker, not to mention by a QB. And the guy can play a little, too. His 2009 season was one of the most impressive campaigns ever for any player, given his age, and he delivered for the Vikings when it mattered most. He should be praised after this one, not chastised. That’s right, my opinion of Favre INCREASED after this game. I don’t blame him for the loss. Did anyone notice he got the living crap kicked out of him in the game and kept on coming? For some players, what makes them great also makes them a train wreck at times, and some people just can’t grasp that. I understand an argument can be made that he doesn’t deserved to be in the “Greatest QB of all time” conversation because of his ugly turnovers, but if you can’t recognize Favre as one of the best football players ever then you’re just a hater, period.

I’m indifferent on whether or not he’ll come back, but if I were Favre, I’d hang them up. He gave it a great shot, but these are the Minnesota Vikings, they’re not meant to win a Super Bowl, and they’re meant to disappoint their fans.

That’s why my 2010 prediction for the Vikings is this: Favre will retire, and they’ll trade for Donovan McNabb. McNabb will have a good year, and they will go 11-5 or 12-4 and make the playoffs, and expectations will be high.

And you just know how it’s going to go from there.

Category: Fantasy Football, General

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9 Responses

  1. Bill Wensel says:

    The one big bright spot out of how painful that loss was is it didn’t happen in the Super Bowl.

  2. Jay Alan Spateholts says:

    John,

    First let me say I love the guru site.

    Now as to Favre and his legacy: Favre will definitely go down in the history of football as a warrior and a player who may have enjoyed his playing time more than any other, but I fear that is where it ends. The test of a true champion is how one performs under pressure. All too often, Favre has made horrific rookie mistakes costing his team. This is not the mark of greatness. Favre has had many special moments, yet in the end he will not be remembered as the Greatest QB of all time. He will be remembered for his boyhood enthusiasm, warrior toughness and some very special moments. Unfortunately, Favre will also be remembered and maybe unfairly so as a player who couldn’t handle the pressure of the championship moment.

  3. John Hansen says:

    I understand, but for example if there wasn’t a 12th man on the field, they would have run the ball for at worst 2-3 more yards and Longwell would have likely kicked a 45-yard FG to win the game and that play wouldn’t have happened and Favre *would* have been praised for leading the team to it’s first SB in 33 years and at 40 years old. I understand he can’t be in the top-5 or anything, but it wasn’t his fault he was in that spot. And you know if any other QB took the beating that he did, they might have tried to throw it too.

  4. Tom says:

    And if Tracey Porter fell down, Rice catches the ball.

    The fact is, the Vikings were facing 3rd and 15 and needed about 5-7 yards to get into FG range. The fact is that Favre DID throw a horrible pick. The fact is, Favre has made a LOT of those bad decisions over his career that conveniently get glossed over.

    I think Favre is one of the toughest players ever to play the game. I think he’s been a really good QB over his career and had a better season than any 40 year old has the right to expect. I agree that his streak will probably never be broken…especially by a QB. I see why people love watching him play…I do, too. We all know he’ll be a first-ballot HOF inductee, and deservedly so.

    BUT, I’m just so sick of how he’s been issued superhero status…how NFL commentators from John Madden on down have constantly built this guy up to be the greatest QB ever…how his mistakes are always glossed over…how his ego causes strife on an annual basis these days for an NFL team. I’m tired of the “aw shucks” country-boy act…tired of the Favre-watch ESPN blitz…tired of the will-he-or-won’t-he.

    Just call me “sick and tired” of Favre.

  5. Ariakis says:

    Hey John can you weigh in on more 2010 dynasty/keeper stuff? For example, I am debating whether to give up rookie pick 1.12 for Kolb to support a Cutler lead team that would have won with even average week 14-16 QB production.

  6. Spicoli says:

    Count me in with Mr. Hansen. In fact, I’ll take it a notch further. His kicker was NOT in a spot where he is going to make the kick. Folks who think Longwell is going to make it from that distance are simply delusional. That is longer by two yards that his CAREER best. Folks, you can slice that how you want, but it’s low probability either way. He’s been Favre’s kicker for the bulk of the last 13 years. Brett knows the guy’s leg. Sea Bass is low probability from there. Anybody is. George Blanda would have been.

    Favre is trying to win the game. He is not thinking that they have it won with a 57 yarder. He’s thinking that they have less than a 10% chance of making that kick. So, pushing the envelope makes total sense. In his mind, he NEEDS one more play. He tried to make it.

    Now wait, you say, he could have run for five or more yards. OK, first off, he probably couldn’t have. The guy had, if you watched, been beaten to pulp. The fact that he was in there at all is a testament to his toughness. He’s not going to close that distance at an equal rate to the quicker younger and less beaten up defenders. They would UNDOUBTEDLY close that 10 yard gap quicker.

    Favre throws the ball from behind the 40 (almost 4 yards behind the LOS). Look it up on Youtube if you doubt my veracity. There are TWO defenders on his side of the 30. Again, go look if you doubt me. Now, if he takes off and we split the difference, he might make it to the 35 and more likely, somewhere short of that. This results in a gain of maybe a yard or two. Maybe. That would line Longwell up for his career best (tied) FG.

    And, let’s not forget that Favre would have taken a serious double pop from those two defenders and odds are that he’d still have been in overtime. Remember, if he slides, he’d have gained nothing at all or even lost yardage depending on when he goes into the slide.

    Also, look at the defender immediately to Favre’s left as he releases the ball. Are you telling me that guy might not catch Favre from behind in short order? Maybe even for a loss? If you don’t believe me, then go look – and be fair.

    Is Favre crazy for not taking that route? Not on your life.

    Now, let’s take it a step further. Should he even be looking to run? No. He’s trying to make a play down field of at least ten yards to give his kicker a 50/50 (better really) chance of success. He’s trying to win the game with his arm. It’s EASY to sit here and say “he should have ran”, when you see it ten times and can scan the field. He was looking for targets in the moment. It’s pure hindsight, and, as I showed, it’s not even accurate.

    Now, let’s look at the throw. Was it bad? Yes, it was. That said, I have seen him complete that throw many times. He’s expecting Rice to come back for the ball, but Rice reads release and heads initially for the post. Not really a mistake on Rice’s part. The play broke down. The point is that Favre took a gamble. Gambles must be looked at in terms of risk versus reward. The reward was a better than 50% chance at victory versus a less than 10% chance. The risk was losing the FG attempt.

    OT lurked regardless, so barring N.O. going down the field in no time, OT was practically guaranteed.

    Did the guy make a mistake? I assert that you could argue it either way. As Mr. Hansen said, the guy “got the living crap beat out of him.” Favre understood, living inside his battered body, that OT did not exactly favor his 40-year old body. He went for it. I do not fault him. That guy can play for me any day. And, FWIW, I can’t stand the guy’s diva routine every offseason. Still, that has no basis on how damn amazing he is when he’s between the lines.

    As amazing as it sounds, this guy is now underrated. Folks have been piling on him so long that it’s become popular to bash him. Remember when folks said that Peyton Manning could win the big game? People love to buy into garbage.

    Good call, John. I’m glad some people have the guts to call things in context. It’s why I frequent your site. You guys call things straight up and don’t follow the pack. If I want to know what the pack thinks, I can just look up ADP.

  7. Spicoli says:

    Correction. It should have read… Remember when folks said that Peyton Manning could NOT win the big game? People love to buy into garbage.

    Thanks.

  8. John Hansen says:

    I think 75% of the Favre stuff that annoys people is the media and their coverage. That’s not his fault. No matter the level of the reporting in 2009, his return was more than worth it. I agree with you Spicoli, Favre’s now underrated. I think his 2009 season, given his age and wear and tear, was one of the 5 best seasons ever by any player.

    Favre did more than enough to win the game for Minnesota, and especially with Freeney looking iffy to play, I think the Vikings would have won the Super Bowl had they gotten past the Saints. Then it would have been easily one of the greatest achievements in league history.

    I actually don’t want him to return because it’s highly unlikely he can duplicate the success he had. I’ll always remember him first and foremost for his brilliant 2009 campaign.

  9. Tom says:

    I didn’t agree with Aikman at the time that Favre should’ve ran the ball in that case. Spicoli, I agreed with your assessment when watching the replay on gameday – at best Favre gets 3 yards there if he runs, and probably another healthy hit for his trouble.

    However, do you think that (as he’s rolling away from the rush) he’s evaluating Longwell’s career long as related to the current LOS? Probably not…he’s probably thinking about how he can make the play that gets his team into position to win. I submit that the best play (and I thought this at the time, as well) was to throw the ball away and live to fight another day. The chances of winning the game with Longwell hitting a 55 yarder is a lot higher than the chances of winning by giving the Saints the ball.

    My point here (and I’m sure it’s not an original one) is that the risk of an across the body throw…late over the middle…after you’ve taken that kind of beating is unjustified given the game situation. If a rookie makes that throw it’s called a classic rookie mistake.

    If he’s throwing to a receiver on the sideline and puts it low-and-outside so that only his receiver has a chance, then great – the upside outweighs a virtually non-existant downside. The throw he made had upside, but the risks were too great for the game situation and Favre should’ve known that.

    The fact is, he’s been doing that over his entire career and had mixed results in big games. John, you’re probably right – most of the Favre-hating is due to the overblown media coverage he gets. That’s not his fault, per se…but he puts himself into those situations seemingly every off-season. It’s also how nobody ever remembers his stinkers – only his game winners.

    I don’t want to take away from the great season he had. It would’ve been a career year for virtually any player at any age. The fact that he did it at 40 is truly special. As for this game, he DID do enough for the Vikes to win…if not for all the fumbles and penalties they probably wouldn’t have been in that situation at the end.

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